Self-care for Creatives

So here’s the thing – running a business is bloody hard work. I literally eat, sleep, breathe what I do 24/7 like most other small business owners or solo entrepreneurs. 

But I really, really enjoy it. 

However, as I try and remind those I teach and who are concentrating so, so hard on their sewing – don’t forget to breathe!

It can be difficult to remember to come up for air as a business owner because you are so immersed in what you’re doing on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis that it is hard to remember to take that breath.

We can be very hard on ourselves too, about making time for a bit of self-care. As a mum of two small children I relished the rare chances I had to go and read a book on the beach by myself when the kids were with their dad. I felt extremely guilty about doing so, but that time away just for myself made me a better mummy. After all the inflight safety talk clearly states that you need to attach your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. 

So what I’m trying to say here is that as business owners we need to make time to have time to think and focus on what we are doing and why, where we are going and how are we going to get there. I personally find it really hard to think about the business when I’m in the business if you see what I mean. 

This is why Claire Louise and I have decided that we are going to stay on for a few days after our October Retreat in Cornwall. We just need that bit of breathing space before returning to the hustle and bustle of what we do. The batteries need a bit of a recharge – we are not Duracell Bunnies. We all deserve a bit of self-care sometimes, it’s not selfish. It’s essential.

We would love it if you could come and join us. There will be home cooked meals each day so you don’t have to worry about cooking. You can take part in a bit of restorative meditation or relaxing yoga. Enjoy a massage or treatment to help you unwind or feel revitalised. Or just chill in the hot tub! The sewing machines will be there too so if you fancy bringing some sewing with you this is the perfect opportunity to make up new samples or even – (pauses for effect) make something for yourself. 

And you’ll be with other creatives who, like you, run a business so some peer mentoring may take place or it can just be a safe space to bounce ideas around if you need a sounding board, secure in the knowledge that “what happens on retreat stays on retreat!”

What we are hoping is that we can provide you with a bit of breathing space in your life to enjoy a bit of light relief with others in a similar position to you. So you know that you’re not alone. 

Come and join us!

Pressing Matters

I believe pressing to be one of the most important parts of dressmaking. It is the act – or rather art – of pressing your garment throughout the sewing process, as well as the final press, that will set your clothes to the highest standard.

By paying close attention to the pressing of your garment at every stage of each seam, placket or collar, you set the stitches into the fabric, which allows them to perform their job of holding several pieces of fabric together much better.

Do not confuse pressing with ironing

Pressing requires you to use the iron as a precision tool, lifting and pressing it down rather than sweeping it across fabric, to flatten, shape or crease very specific areas on a garment. Pressing also requires a light touch. A heavy hand can result in over-pressing, which knocks the stuffing out of fabric!

There are several items of equipment that will really help with the pressing of your garments.

Iron
Make sure it is good quality. It should be reasonably heavy to have some weight behind the press, as well as a function to vary and turn off the steam. You could invest in a tank iron, which holds a large reservoir of water that is converted to boosts of steam when needed. The power of the steam is greater than that of an ordinary iron (and doesn’t need refilling as often!)

Ironing Board
Try and get an ironing board that comes up to waist height. It should also be well padded. If the padding is a bit scant or on the old side, you can always add more in the form of quilting wadding and make another cover to fit the board.

Pressing Cloth
his is invaluable, as it separates the direct source of heat from your garment, giving it a little bit of protection and preventing shine and scorch marks. A damp pressing cloth can also impart moisture to help achieve perfectly flat seams. Your pressing cloth doesn’t need to be anything special (a piece of linen or calico is fine), but it should be washed first.

Tailor’s Ham
This is a large egg – or ham – shaped bolster that features different curves to enable garments to be pressed on it without flattening out the three-dimensional form. Tailor’s hams are traditionally made from calico on one side and a wool fabric on the other. Usually they are stuffed with sawdust, as this absorbs the steam when pressing.

Sleeve Roll
This does a similar job to a tailor’s ham, but it allows you to press smaller and more difficult areas, such as sleeves. Both items are easy to make yourself.

Sleeve Board
This looks like a miniature ironing board. It makes pressing those small and awkward places a lot easier. Good-quality sleeve boards have the stand at the far end, which enables you to press along the whole length of a sleeve.

Clapper
This is a piece of old tailoring equipment and makes pressing creases a lot easier. It is a flat piece of wood, usually with a handle that can be shaped to a point. When you are pressing a heavier fabric such as denim, steam the area and then press down firmly with the clapper over the area to press. The clapper pushes the steam down through the fabric and helps to set the press. Ideal for pressing hems on jeans.

Fingers & Hands
Touch is one of the most important ways of assessing the amount of pressing required. Use your fingers to press out seams on delicate fabrics and your hands to hold seams flat after steaming.

Choosing fabrics

Choosing the right fabric for your project can make or break the finished result. If the fabric is too lightweight, the garment will not hold its shape or structure; if it is too heavy or stiff, the garment will not hang properly. Take note of the suggested fabrics in the pattern as the designer will know which will work best.

There are several points to consider when selecting the right fabric for your project.

WHAT IS THE GARMENT FOR?

Consider the occasion and what you will be doing while wearing that particular piece of clothing. Are you making an outfit for a wedding or a piece of new running kit? These projects will require very different fabrics that will need to perform different tasks.

Fibre
Think about the fibre content with regards to the purpose of the garment. A polyester satin fabric may have a beautiful pattern, but will be rather hot and uncomfortable worn next to the skin – a silk crêpe de Chine would be a better choice for that purpose. However, the polyester satin would work well as a jacket lining where it will slide over other clothing worn under the jacket.

Sheen
A satin fabric with a sheen will catch the light, but could also highlight a host of lumps and bumps. A more matte fabric will cover these and give a smooth overall look to the garment.

Drape
The stiffness of a fabric is described as ‘body’. Fabrics with more body will prevent the fabric from draping as much as a fabric with less body. The best way to check this in a shop is to unroll the fabric from the bolt and drape and hang it yourself to see the level of drape it has.

PLAIN OR PATTERN?

Plain fabrics are easier to work with, but sometimes a pattern is what’s called for. Be mindful of how the pattern works on the garment pieces. For example, if you have a large circular pattern, think carefully about where to place the front bodice pattern piece to avoid an embarrassing faux pas. Similarly, a small delicate pattern may get lost if used all over a garment – it might be better used as a contrast or for a collar.

Stripes and checks
When matched perfectly, stripes and checks look great, but wonky stripes do not. Take the time and effort to match stripes up. It will not always be possible to match up all the stripes across the garment, so focus on the ones that are most visible. Stripes can run horizontally across the body and vertically from the bodice down into the skirt.

  • Mark on the bodice pattern pieces where you want the stripes to sit
  • Mark on the sleeve pattern where those lines fall on the sleeve head
  • Match up the lines on the pattern pieces with the stripes on the fabric

Which way up?
Patterns can sometimes have a particular direction. Always check, even if you think it’s an all-over pattern, otherwise you may find the odd flower or bird that will be sitting on it’s head! Decide on the top of the pattern and mark clearly so that you don’t forget. You could even pin a note to the edge of the fabric to help.

Nap
Even when using plain fabrics, there are factors to bear in mind. Some fabrics, such as velvet or corduroy, have a pile or ‘nap’, which needs careful consideration. As the pile stands away from the base of the fabric, the light will catch it in various ways. It will also feel different stroked up or down. Decide which is top and place your pattern pieces accordingly. It is usual to have the nap of a velvet running down the body.

Making More of Your Patterns: Celia mitred corners

As much as I love a frill (and they don’t come much frillier than Celia!) sometimes I just want something a bit more simpler.

Just taking off the frill is a bit too simple though. Giving the hem a mitred corner gives a neat and clean finish to corners, and look great if they are top-stitched as well.

  • Draw on the original hem line
  • Add an extra 5cm on from the hem line
  • Draw on the side seam allowance
  • Add an extra 5cm onto the side from the seam line
  • Mark the split to end about 8cm or 3” from the finished hemline

I wanted to sew the hem by top stitching 4cm away from the finished edge to give a border to the hem and split, I thought it would look quite neat to have the split sewn with a gable (or point) above it. So I drew on the top-stitching line and created a gable over the split so the point of the gable was 4cm above the end of the split. I could then trim off the excess paper to give me the shape I needed.

Follow this tutorial on How to Sew Mitred Corners. Then, once the corners are completed, give yourself some guidelines for the top-stitching.

The hem and splits once sewn need a really good press – use a pressing cloth and plenty of steam if you need to.

This is a very straightforward pattern hack to achieve and I hope it shows how easy it is to adapt a pretty simple pattern to include a few interesting details.

If you haven’t yet got your Celia Top pattern then you can purchase yours here.

A patch pocket with a difference!

Sewing the Desdemona pocket

We have used this pocket on our Desdemona Skirt pattern- its an unusual style patch pocket with has an opening at the top – the button & buttonhole is just a design feature. Its simple to do but looks quite impressive (or so we think!)

You will need two pattern pieces- one pocket and one pocket facing. Our pocket piece is 21.5cm (width) x 23cm at the sides and 34cm at the centre. Draw a fold line 4cm down from the sides and pop your grain line on. The pocket facing is the same shape but the sides are 13cm in length. I chose to add further interest to this pocket by using the stripes vertically on the pocket and horizontally on the pocket facing.

Interface the pocket facing piece by attaching a light weight interfacing to the back. This will support the fabric later when you make a a buttonhole. Neaten the bottom edge of the pocket facing, then place it on top of the pocket piece with right sides together. Sew around the facing, pivoting at the corners. Trim the corners and turn through the right way around.

Press under the remaining seam allowance and mitre the corners. To do this press the seam allowances along the side and the bottom, open out and then fold the corner in so the point of the crease is on the edge. Then fold back in the side and the bottom and press again. Top stitch across the bottom edge of the facing to hold in place.

Mark and sew the buttonhole. Fold the point over along the fold line (marked on your pattern) and mark and sew the button in place. You could cheat and just sew a button on here as its a decorative feature and not a usable button/ button hole.

Place and pin the pocket onto your skirt, making sure its in the right place for your length of arms! Lift the edges of the point of the pocket to be able to start and finish sewing along the edge of the pocket to hold it in place. You can reinforce the pocket at the corners by sewing a triangle or rectangle at the start and finish points.

Happy Sewing!

Meet Cressida – the pattern I never thought I would make!

Our latest pattern is a jumpsuit!

Those are words I never thought I would utter. After all I am a lady entering her middling years, more into comfort and style rather than ‘high fashion’.

There have been plenty of pictures floating around on social media this Spring/Summer of people wearing jumpsuits and looking amazing – but it really wasn’t for me!

Or so I thought!

After playing around in the studio with different shapes and trying to adapt existing patterns I was encouraged to “let go of your prejudice Jules, and just stick some trousers on it.” At first I wasn’t sure about the neckline, and it needed some kind of a sleeve, but in the end I got there and I have to say I am totally in love with this pattern. I spotted a lady at a show wearing something similar and she looked amazing so she became my inspiration. Shows are a fabulous opportunity for ‘style spotting’ and I love watching how people put together their own individual looks. (But that is a whole other blog.)

My initial concern about having to take everything off just to go to the loo were unfounded. I tested out the toile for a day wearing it around the studio to see for myself. It really isn’t that much hassle – I promise!

I chose one of our new Linen/Tencel mix fabrics as it had just the right amount of drape to it but was also substantial enough for trousers, that part gets a fair bit of wear and tear, and I just love the way it feels next to your skin. It’s so soft!

Navy can be a tricky colour to photograph so I used some top stitching to emphasise the style lines of the collar and pockets. I used white for this one for a slightly nautical air, but the next one will probably be in a soft denim with some yellow top stitching.

Pockets have to feature in more or less everything I make and Cressida is no exception. Cut-away pockets on the side seams and patch pockets on the back, mean you can go the whole pocket hog or just choose what’s right for you and the style and fabric you’re making your Cressida up in.

Someone has already called this pattern ‘Secret pyjamas’ and I think they could be right. This pattern is so comfortable to wear you might as well be wearing your PJs. It’s also very simple to alter too, if you need to shorten or add length to the body or trousers sections and I will be doing some tutorials to show you how easy that is.

I would strongly urge you to have a go and make your own Cressida Jumpsuit, especially if you’ve thought jumpsuits weren’t for you. You might surprise yourself.

Order your Cressida Jumpsuit today.

How to Sew a Cargo Pocket

Cargo pockets are utilitarian, solid-looking pockets. There are a whole range of variations that can be achieved but this one uses a pleated pocket with a flap. It is generally a good idea to make the flap about 6mm wider than the pocket, so that the flap will sit neatly over the pocket and the pocket will not be visible along the sides of the flap.

I drafted my own pattern, this one measures 31cm (width) & 24cm (length) with cut out square corners (2.5cm square). Draw a line down the centre (CF) and mark a line either side of this 5cm from the CF as the fold line. The size of the actual pocket will be 13.5cm (width) x 16.5cm (length).

The pocket flap is 16cm (width) x 9.3cm (at the centre front, longest point). The sides are 3cm smaller than the centre front. You will need to cut 2 pocket flaps, one is the lining, this is a chance to use a contrast fabric for the pocket flap lining.

Create a box pleat down the centre of the pocket piece . Finish the pleat by sewing a small distance along the pleat fold line at the top and bottom of the pleat. Press the pleat flat.

Fold under 1cm across the top edge of the pocket, then fold the top edge under again along the fold line, this creates the pocket facing. Topstitch along the bottom of the facing to secure it in place.

Press under the seam allowance of 1cm along the three remaining sides of the pocket. This will act as a guide later. Fold the pocket with the right sides together to pinch together the bottom corners. Sew across the corners. Trim off the excess fabric from the corners and turn the right way round.

Fold the seam allowance under the sides and base of the pocket and press in place to create a crease that runs around the front of the pocket. Edge stitch along each of these creases, stopping at the corners and starting again once the corner has been turned.

Mark out the pocket placement lines on your garment/ project and place the top of the pocket at the top placement line, line up the base of the pocket at the bottom points, and win pin in place. Make sure that the four corners of the pocket base are directly under the four corners of the front of the pocket. Edge stitch around the pocket base, pivoting at each corner before continuing.

A small rectangle or triangle can be sewn at the top corners of the pocket to reinforce the pocket opening.

Apply interfacing to wrong side of the pocket flap lining- the contrast fabric piece. The pocket flap lining should be just a fraction smaller than the pocket flap so trim it by a 1mm. This allows the lining to be eased onto the flap and ensures that the pocket flap has to roll under very slightly, keeping the lining hidden.

Pin the flap and the lining right sides together. Ease the lining so that it will fit the flap and all the raw edges are sitting flush. Sew around the the side and bottom edges of the flap, pivoting at the corners to keep them nice and sharp. Clip the excess fabric off the corners and turn the flap right side out. Poke out the corners and press flat, making sure that the lining is not visible from the right side. Topstitch around the sides and point of the flap.

Tack the open edge together through all the layers.

Place the pocket flap right side down on the right side of the garment along the placement line.

Stitch in place along the placement line and trim the seam allowance back by 6mm

Fold the pocket flap back down, press in place and topstitch the pocket flap down, enclosing the trimmed seam allowance.